A Winnipeg doctor charging patients for medical marijuana authorization notes says he is not encouraging his patients to purchase pot through a local store that is operating illegally.
Medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Canada. Your Medical Cannabis Headquarters on Main Street is already facing pressure from Winnipeg police to close. The store reopened on Tuesday, a week after officers told owner Glenn Price to stop selling marijuana.
Price said customers must have a doctor's note to purchase cannabis from his store. But if prospective buyers don't come with a note in hand, the store has someone they can recommend.
"My doctor is the only one who was willing to help anybody, as long as they have the proper medical documentation," Price said, referring to Winnipeg Dr. Roman Chubaty.
Chubaty, who runs two walk-in clinics in Winnipeg, maintains he is following Health Canada's guidelines. He is upset and doesn't condone what Price is doing.
"Where Glenn gets off thinking he can get around this thing and use my name around there is absolutely beyond me," Chubaty said.
'I can't control what happens once they go out of the office.' - Dr. Roman Chubaty.
His patients are thoroughly assessed prior to receiving an authorization letter for medical marijuana, Chubaty said, adding they must fill out an extensive questionnaire about why cannabis suits their treatment needs. Finally, they have to pay $300 for the paper work.
"I have a busy practice in two clinics; you've seen the paperwork, it is quite extensive. This takes time out of my practice."
But that doesn't square with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Anna Ziomek, the registrar for the college, said even though the forms are not technically "prescriptions," doctors still cannot charge any fee for authorization letters to use medical marijuana.
"We would consider at the college that the authorization would be in lieu of a prescription and therefor it is covered through the visit," Ziomek said. "The physician is not allowed to charge independently for the authorization."
Charging for the authorization form could be a violation of the college's standards and conduct, Ziomek added.
Chubaty said he doesn't think he's breaking any rules but he plans to meet with the College of Physicians to clarify any misunderstandings.
In the last couple of months, Chubaty said he has handed out 20 to 30 authorization letters or certificates in Winnipeg.
According to Health Canada, once a patient receives an authorized letter through their doctor, they must register as a client with a licensed producer to order cannabis. The order is then shipped to the patient through the mail.
Chubaty said he's never encouraged patients to purchase marijuana through "illegal" dispensaries. He says before patients leave his clinic they are given a list of licensed producers in Canada they can order their cannabis from.
"I can't control what happens once they go out of the office," he said. "I can tell them, 'You want to be legal, here's your certificate, here are the dispensaries that Health Canada has authorized.'"
Health Canada has confirmed that while there is one licenced producer in the province, there are 12 Manitoba applications in the works.
Sample Medical Document for the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations
Sample Medical Document for the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (PDF KB)
Sample Medical Document for the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (Text KB)